Cyclones cap historic day at NCAA cross country nationals with Kurgat individual championship

Iowa State distance runner Edwin Kurgat races against eight other universities during the men’s 8K at the 2018 Big 12 Cross Country Championships on Oct. 26, 2018, at Iowa State. Kurgat placed first overall for the men’s division with a time of 23:21.1. The men’s team placed first overall with a score of 32, winning the championships.

Adarsh Tamma

The Iowa State cross country program capped off the 2019 season by running in the NCAA national championships on Saturday and ended the day with a runner on the top step of the podium on the men’s side, as senior runner Edwin Kurgat ended his cross country career with an individual national championship win.

The Cyclones competed on the sport’s biggest stage for the third consecutive year, sending athletes on both the men’s and women’s side. In last week’s Midwest Regional, Iowa State qualified the entire team on the men’s side, while junior Cailie Logue was the sole representative for the Cyclone women. 

First up in Terre Haute, Indiana, was the women’s 6K race. Logue, who won the individual Regional title last week eight seconds clear of second place runner Taylor Somers, faced stiff competition in the championship race. The women’s field included all of the top-30 squads in the nation and the two favorites to win the individual crown: Weini Kelati of New Mexico and Alicia Monson of Wisconsin.

At the start of the race, Logue kept her own and stuck with the lead pack of more than 25 runners. Through the 2K mark, the former Kansas state high school cross country champion was in 17th place, nestled between Villanova sophomore Lydia Olivere and BYU junior Whittni Orton.

As the race progressed, Logue showed her big race experience and kept pace with the lead pack, which soon began to slowly string away from the rest of the field. At the 4K mark, the race was still to close call, as several of the favorites were stuck in the front pack. Logue hung tough with this group, placing 23rd with 2K left in the race.

Over the final 2K is where Logue grew into the race as it wound down to a battle of collegiate running’s elite. Up at the front were favorites Monson and Kelati, along with the Arkansas duo of Katie Izzo and Taylor Werner. 

Down the final stretch, Kelati began to pull away from Monson and the rest of the field. The New Mexico junior crossed the line ten seconds clear of the field to win in a time of 19:47.5, redeeming her second second place finish from last year. Logue also improved her finish from last year, passing multiple athletes over the final moments to cross the line in 15th with a time of 20:26.8. Logue became Iowa State’s 34th All-American in program history, the first since Annie Frisbie in last year’s race. Logue finished 53rd in that race.

The overall team title was won by the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks, who four of their top five in the top-20 to beat second place BYU by just six points, 96-102, and won their first cross country title in program history. In doing so, Arkansas became the first team to win the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field titles, along with a Cross Country title in a calendar year.

Next up was the Men’s 10K championship race, and all eyes were on Kurgat, who was the favorite to win the individual title. Coming into this race, the senior All-American retained his Big 12 and NCAA Midwest Regional titles, as the Cyclone men qualified for their fourth consecutive national championships.

Once the gun went off, it was clear several squads were in contention for the national championship going into the first checkpoint. Through the 3K mark, the Cyclones had four of their seven runners in the top-100, with Kurgat up in the lead pack at ninth place.

As the race progressed, the weather began to take a toll on the runners’ performance. It was a rainy and wet atmosphere over the Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course, and mud was soon visible on each of the runners’ singlets. Despite this, Kurgat and the Cyclones continued to follow their race plan, and the field soon passed the 5K mark. He crossed the halfway checkpoint four spots up to fifth place, with the next Cyclone being sophomore Chad Johnson in 54th. Iowa State was now in seventh place for the team standings

The second half of the race is where the story really begins to unfold, as much like the women’s race, a lead pack of 20 or so runners began to pull away from the rest of the field. Up at the front was Virginia Tech senior Peter Seufer, who was the leader for a majority of this race. At the 8K mark, the Cyclones were now in fourth place behind defending national champ Northern Arizona, as Kurgat slowly moved up to second place behind Seufer.

Down the stretch, a small group that consisted of the top six or seven runners ran away from the rest of the field, and the race was on to see who would be crowned the individual champion. At this point, Kurgat made the move to go for broke and the finish line. With 1K left in the race, the senior gave a last surge and pulled away from the lead group and never looked back. Down the final straightaway, Kurgat increased the gap from the field and crossed the famous finish line at Lavern Gibson in a time of 30:32.7.

Kurgat capped off his senior season in historic fashion, as he became the first Cyclone since fellow Kenyan Jonah Koech back in 1990 to win the individual title at the national championships. Over two years, he has won back-to-back titles for the Big 12 and NCAA Regional meets, and now has a gold medal to add to redeem the bronze he won in last year’s national championship.

Behind Kurgat, the Cyclones surged. The next Cyclone runner to cross the finish line was Johnson in 43rd, followed closely by junior Mitchell Day in 51st. The Cyclones rounded out the top-100 and their scoring lineup by having Milo Greder, Addison Dehaven and co-captain Thomas Pollard finish in 72nd, 76th and 95th, respectively. Iowa State’s last runner to finish was senior David Too, who finished at the 174th spot.

The Cyclones collected a total of 211 points to finish in fourth place in the overall team standings behind Pac 12 champions Colorado. This is the first time Iowa State has been on the podium as a team since 1994, when the Cyclones last won the national championship. The BYU Cougars ended up winning the national title by having all five of their scoring runners in the top-50, denying defending national champ Northern Arizona a fourth-straight title.

Women’s Individual Results:

15. Cailie Logue, Jr.- 20:26.8

Women’s Team Results:

1. Arkansas, 96 Pts.

2. BYU, 102 Pts.

3. Stanford, 123 Pts.

4. New Mexico, 168 Pts.

5. North Carolina State, 190 Pts.

6. Michigan State, 209 Pts.

7. Wisconsin, 235 Pts.

8. Air Force, 259 Pts.

9. Furman, 290 Pts.

10. Colorado, 294 Pts.

11. Washington, 296 Pts.

12. Florida State, 308 Pts.

13. Michigan, 395 Pts.

14. Northern Arizona, 406 Pts.

15. Notre Dame, 415 Pts.

16. Utah, 471 Pts.

17. Boise State, 474 Pts.

18. Penn State, 482 Pts.

19. Indiana, 509 Pts.

20. Boston College, 514 Pts.

21. Ole Miss, 541 Pts.

22. Illinois, 549 Pts.

23. Ohio State, 566 Pts.

24. Villanova, 575 Pts.

25. Tulsa, 584 Pts.

26. Oregon, 618 Pts.

27. Columbia, 624 Pts.

28. Minnesota, 691 Pts.

29. Cornell, 693 Pts.

30. Texas, 713 Pts.

31. Harvard, 787 Pts.

Men’s Individual Results:

1. Edwin Kurgat, Sr.-30:32.7

43. Chad Johnson, So.-31:21.6

51. Mitchell Day, Jr.-31:31.2

72. Milo Greder, Jr.-31:41.4

76. Addison Dehaven, Sr.-31:45.4

95. Thomas Pollard, Jr.-31:56.5

174. David Too, Sr.-32:39.4

Festus Lagat, Sr.-DNS